“We can handle everything because we stick together”
Text: Martina Hošková and M. Zisso; Photo: Prague Business Club
It is a natural need of a human being to have a safe, supportive place where you can relax, express yourself freely, and enjoy the company of like-minded people. Many Czech entrepreneurs have found such an inspiring oasis at Prague’s Wenceslas Square, on the premises of the Prague Business Club, which was founded 20 years ago by Luboš Drobík. How did it all start? What is the mission of the Club and its founder? And is it still possible to improve the club after 20 years of its successful existence?
Nowadays, the Prague Business Club hosts over 100 club discussion dinners a year. Is this what you were planning at the beginning?
I didn’t really plan anything about the club that much at the beginning, I did not even plan to start it in the first place. The best things in life seem to come to you by accident. Just as a woman enters your life and becomes your destiny, so did the club enter my life and become mine. It happened twenty years ago, when, as a family, we rented a beautiful villa in Bubeneč, Prague, and realized that some great events could be held there. Talking about it, I feel like it was only yesterday, but looking at my own face in the mirror proves me wrong.
So, you had a great place for meetings, waiting for the first guests to arrive. Who did you invite?
Good question because I can tell you that, at the very beginning, this wasn’t an easy part at all.
I didn’t have any personal contact with famous people, and I didn’t really know whom to invite. Then I remembered that I used to play football as a student for Tatran Střešovice sports club, and a certain Pavel Bém, the mayor of Prague 6 at the time, played with me. So, I invited him as the main guest. But still, I didn’t know whom to invite as participants in the meeting. I decided to open the Yellow Pages, because the Internet wasn’t quite there yet, and started with the letter A. I mean, I simply started inviting all the business owners who ran a business activity starting with A, e.g. automobile repair shops and antenna manufacturers, and the (hall) capacity for our event quickly filled up. And it was great fun when they found out at the meeting that almost everyone was doing the same thing. (laughter)
Twenty years of the club have passed. How are you doing today?
We gradually became more professional and started inviting representatives from other fields of business, and much more interesting main guests. I remember my audacity when I decided to invite a government minister for the first time. I found an email for the minister, and, then and there, sent an invitation saying that “a top prestigious club invites you to a debate”. And it went well, the meetings got better and better, and we finally started selling memberships. Today, I think we are really the most prestigious club in the Czech Republic. Since the beginning, we have organized more than two thousand meetings. I personally know almost everyone in this country, and I am extremely happy to be at our club meetings and to soak up the wisdom of all the main guests who come here with their topics.
Can you tell us who your members are, and what benefits they gain by joining the club?
They are primarily owners of Czech companies. They are great people who have achieved something and find their equals in the club. You know, it is not easy at all to be the owner of a successful company. You immediately become the center of attention, people cling to you who want to take a piece of your success and money, and others envy you and do not wish you success. You feel quite alone, and develop a desire to connect with someone who is going through similar things in their life. And our club is the place where you can find such people. Here, no one envies anything, no one bothers anyone, and no one pushes their products and services on others. You feel that you are in a place with others like you. It’s like you’re coming home, among your own kind of people. You belong here and feel the friendship and support of others.
There certainly is great value in meeting like-minded people in person. How did you survive the online COVID era?
You’re right. It is proven that the more social connections you have, the happier your life is. With the Prague Business Club, I create space for these ties to develop, and I am really happy when members come to me and say that, thanks to the club, they got to know this or that person, and together they did this or that. I can see how important the club is to them and that is the best reward for me. COVID has disrupted our personal meetings a lot. We couldn’t be together for almost seven months, and only met online once a week, always with a guest. However, the members are very loyal and have supported their club financially, so today we are back at full strength, and going full throttle with almost 150 events in one year.
We gained the important experience that this is not something that should be taken for granted. We value our meetings more, and are grateful that we can meet. Everything is so fragile, and the COVID crisis showed us that. Now, there are other challenges again, like the war in Ukraine or the energy crisis, but now I know that we can handle it all. We stick together.
Is it possible to find new ways to further develop the club’s activities, even after twenty years?
Of course. I am a person who is constantly full of new ideas and challenges. During these past twenty years I have always felt that I am at the beginning, and that there are many things ahead waiting to be realized. Twenty years were added to the book of my life, the club gave me a lot, and, of course, took something away. But I have learnt that my mission is to connect people. Right now, we are creating club sections for members based on their interests. So, we are launching a gourmet section for wine and good food lovers, an investment section for investors, a golf club section for golfers, etc. Everyone has the opportunity to further develop and enjoy their hobbies and their own interests. There is still a lot of room to explore.
I think we are unique, and we want to be even better.
It looks like you have found your calling in life. Do you have a message for Czech entrepreneurs?
If I can tell them something, I would say: Please, do your business consciously, as a service not only to your family and ego but also to your employees and the whole of our beautiful Czech country. Remember to give a large part of your profit to non-profit projects that cultivate society and help others achieve a better and happier life. It is always advisable to be aware of our finite existence, and the fact that we cannot take our success to the afterlife. Always conduct business honestly and ethically. Don’t be afraid to lose, and put up with a little (difficulty) sometimes. We are not here to fight and destroy others, but to cooperate as much as possible and work for a higher cause – not only for money, which is always fleeting anyway.